Category Archives: Food

Hawaii Vacation: Dining at Star Noodle, Lahaina


The last time I wrote, we had just experienced an amazing Kaanapali sunset. With my bathing suit still wet and sand still in our toes, we headed to dinner. Because in Hawaii, you can show up to a restaurant in flip flops and salt water in your hair. No problem.

When we decided to make Maui a destination on this Hawaii vacation, Mikey and I knew we wanted to visit Star Noodle in Lahaina. He and I are big fans of Top Chef, the reality TV cooking show on the Bravo network. A couple seasons ago, Chef Sheldon Simeon made it to the top three finalists. We rooted for him, knowing that he hailed from Hawaii, was Filipino and came off as a cool, laid-back, humble kind of guy. Typical island-guy persona.

Our dinner there did not disappoint. The menu showcased a number of house-made noodle dishes and Asian eats like kimchee, ramen and udon.


We started with a couple share plates — a vietnamese crepe (pictured below) and miso salmon (not pictured).



Although we didn’t order it, the Filipino “bacon and eggs” also caught my eye. Described as crispy pork, poached egg, tomato and onion, it sounded delicious. It’s one I’d order for sure if we ever go back.

I had the Lahaina Fried Soup with Fat Chow Funn, ground pork and bean sprouts.



Mikey had the Hot and Sour with chili lime dashi, smoked proscuitto, shrimp, cilantro, thai basil, bean sprouts and fried garlic. And sadly, I can’t remember what Mom and Dad ordered because I was too busy chowing down on my own dish. I also downed two glasses of this honeydew yuzu juice. I ordered it non-alcoholic, but there is the option to booze it if you choose it.



What we all remember and will never forget was the trio of desserts we ordered — specifically the malasadas (portuguese donuts).



These malasadas were warm, soft, fluffy — not to mention covered in sugar and accompanied by a trio of dipping sauces, including butterscotch and chocolate. The only problem was that there were only three. And while Dad was caught up talking to a local next to us at our communal dining table, Mom, Mikey and I each snagged one for ourselves. We then proceeded to order another round, so that Dad could have his share, and we could indulge in a little more. The gelato and mango pudding were yummy too, but the malasadas really shined. I still dream of them till this day.

We left Star Noodle as happy campers. From there, it was back to the condo for some R&R. We were scheduled to pack up and check out of our condo the next morning and prep for the quick jaunt back to Oahu.

Maui treated us well. I just wish Star Noodle would open up a location in St. Louis. We could use a legit noodle house.



Filed under Food, Travel, Vacation

Eating Adventurously at The Libertine

Over Memorial Day weekend, Mikey and I thought we’d try out St. Louis’ newest eatery, The Libertine. The foodies I follow on Twitter were clamoring like crazy about this place. Much of the hype revolves around the chef in the kitchen, Josh Galliano. As former head chef at Monarch in Maplewood and Food & Wine Magazine’s “People’s Best New Chef Midwest”, Galliano has made quite a name for himself in the food scene. The opening of The Libertine marks his long-awaited return to the kitchen, and I’m happy we got a taste of it only a couple weeks after the grand opening.

What I like most about The Libertine is how casual it is. If you think of a restaurant in Clayton, you’re likely to guess the dress code is categorized under “dress to impress” or “see and be seen”. I don’t think that’s the case for this Clayton neighborhood eatery. You could stroll in with jeans without a problem. And I like that. There’s nothing pretentious going on at The Libertine. The website even says, we take our food seriously, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously.

Hand-crafted tables made in the STL added to the approachable ambience.

Hand-crafted tables made in the STL add to the approachable ambience.

One look at the menu, and it’s easy to see it’s anything but typical. Galliano focuses on ingredients and lets their flavors shine. And a lot of these ingredients you wouldn’t find on any ordinary menu. Frog legs, crispy octopus, bone marrow and uni, crispy pig tails. But I love seeing that there’s a high level of experimentation going on at The Libertine. It gives me a chance to be a little adventurous and try something I’ve never had before. Frankly, I don’t think there are enough chefs in St. Louis taking this sort of approach. I’m glad The Libertine is pushing the envelope.


If the ingredients themselves aren’t entertaining enough, the way the wine menu is written is a copywriter’s dream. Each wine selection was presented with a paragraph that told a story about the wine. It really brought some personality to it and gave it character. Like you would know your wine a whole lot better after reading its backstory.


Aside from the wine, the cocktail menu, featuring modernized parlor cocktails, was pretty impressive. However, Mikey and I were both in a beer mood, so we opted for the Goose Island Sofie and the Bells Two-Hearted IPA.


goose island sofie

And as for the food we ordered, it goes like this:


The crispy pig tails were definitely our favorite dish of the night. Mouthwatering and succulent with just the right amount of crunch, I think it’s a must-have. The sunflower seed risotto comes in at a close second. Such an interesting take on risotto, and given the fact that Mikey is a sunflower seed nut (pardon the pun), this was a big hit for us. Another item worth noting is the Diner Burger. It was delicious — especially the chef’s take on “cheese whiz”, which you can see is draping oh-so perfectly around every patty, in the photo above. The Deep Water Hake (a fish) was tasty, but I was particularly in love with the gnudi ricotta dumplings that were paired with it. Give me a bag of those, and I’ll eat ’em like popcorn.

Not pictured above is the The Libertine Candy Bar that I had for dessert. Mikey had a glass of whiskey from the new St. Louis-based distillery, Still 630, for his final course. And before the pig tails and risotto came out, we also had a sampling of roasted chickpeas with a powdery coating on the house. I meant to take pictures, but sometimes my appetite gets in the way. When the food is this good, you can’t blame me.

Anyway, The Libertine is definitely a welcome addition to the St. Louis food scene, as far as I’m concerned. As I looked around at the surrounding tables that night though, I noticed a lot of Diner Burger orders — which is fine and dandy. I just hope that the people who dine at The Libertine are willing to step just a tad bit out of their comfort zone. Eating adventurously isn’t easily accepted by your average diner. But if you’re not willing to take a risk, you’re kind of missing out on all the fun. I know for sure that the hubs and I will be back for more of those crispy pig tails and some other dish we’ve never tried before.


Filed under Food, St. Louis

New Year’s Eve at Basso

It’s a tradition that’s been going strong for three years now. Mikey and I ring in the new year with tasty cocktails and a delicious dinner at a swanky restaurant.


And NYE dinner at a swanky restaurant means I get to take my trusty sequined skirt out on the town.

This year, we went to a new place in St. Louis called Basso. The year before it was Taste in the Central West End, and the year before that it was Niche in Benton Park. NYE dinner is a success every time (when food is involved, why wouldn’t it be?), so we’ve kept it going for a while now. It gets us out of the house at a decent hour too and back home safely without having to risk the irresponsible drinkers on the road once the wee hours of the night roll around.

Basso is St. Louis’ newest see-and-be-seen dining destination, and it’s located in the lower level of the newly renovated and remodeled Cheshire Inn. The underground gastropub is inconspicuously marked by a simple sign above a small door. Once you enter and descend the winding staircase, you’ve arrived. There’s an open kitchen to your left that dishes out an array of Italian eats, including pastas and wood-oven pizzas. Straight ahead is a roaring fireplace, surrounded by some comfy couches. To your right is an impressive bar with plenty of seating, and more importantly, 32 beers on tap!

We were seated at one of the high-top tables near the bar and immediately started ordering up small plates from our server, TJ. We had the Mezzi Rigatoni, Potato Gnocchi, Beef Ribeye Carpaccio, Lobster Arancini and the Zeppoli Donuts to end on a sweet note. The Potato Gnocchi was our absolute favorite. I’m a sucker for gnocchi, and Basso’s is undoubtedly the best I’ve had. They should call it Melt-In-Your-Mouth Gnocchi because that’s what it did.


Clockwise from left to right: 1) Sconces that would be perfect for Mikey’s someday man cave lined the walls. 2) That unforgettable bowl of gnocchi. 3) Ribeye Beef Carpaccio was topped with watercress and parmesan.

As for drinks, Mikey had a trio of beers, including the Tank 7, Moose Drool and Left Hand Milk Stout Nitro. I opted for fancy cocktails — the Spicy Aperole and Mistletoe Smash. The latter wins the award for best presentation. With a sprinkle of cranberries and a strand of fresh rosemary for garnish, it looked pretty enough to take home and use as a centerpiece.




Spicy Aperole on the left (plus Mikey) and an overhead shot of the Smashed Mistletoe on the right.

What I loved most about Basso is that it felt trendy without feeling pretentious. And its ability to feel casual, yet intimate. What I disliked most about Basso was the company that sat directly behind me at the bar (which is no fault of Basso). If you read my Ireland post about the joyous couple we sat next to during our anniversary dinner in Kinsale, you’ll remember how I absolutely despise when other restaurant patrons feel the need to insert their snobbery or ridiculous conversations into your dining experience. But back to Basso… Really, chick at the bar, if the conversation with your man friend involves the words “cotton thong” and “I think about you all the time”, you may want to keep your voice down.

Overall, it was an excellent dinner, a perfect way to ring in the new year and a sign that we’ll be back for more Basso in the future.

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Eating My Way into 28

I’m taking a little break from my Ireland posts to blog about my food-filled birthday weekend. Not that I’m at all tired of talking about Ireland. The trip is still fresh in my mind, which is a good thing. A vacation like that is something you never want to let go of, and since we’ve been back to the grind for almost a full week now, I’m holding onto that vacation for dear life!

Anyway, my birthday fell on a Sunday this year, and in true Larissa fashion, I had my fill of diverse and delicious dinners on NBB (night before birthday) and NOB (night of birthday).

On NBB, the hubs and I dined at Pastaria, a new hot spot Italian eatery owned by St. Louis-famous chef, Gerard Craft. Craft became a household name in St. Louis after he was named Best New Chef by Food & Wine Magazine in 2008. At the time, he owned a restaurant called Niche in Benton Park, but he’s since opened a slew of new restaurants, including Taste, Brasserie and now, Pastaria. The hubs and I have been to all four now, and it’s a toss-up as to which one is best. But I’d have to go with Brasserie, while the hubs sides with Niche. They hooked him with a Ribeye on New Year’s Eve a couple years ago that he simply can’t forget.

Pastaria is in the St. Louis neighborhood of Clayton in an unassuming location in the Centene Building. When news first broke that Gerard Craft was opening Pastaria in Clayton and also relocating Niche in Benton Park to Clayton, he received a good deal of criticism for leaving the St. Louis city limits for the fat wallet clientele in Clayton. In a way, it was as if Craft Restaurants was losing its swag simply by catering to the wealthy Clayton crowd.

Although I wish Craft would’ve kept his restaurants in the city, I can’t complain that two of his restaurants are going to be a 10 minute drive from our house. And once you’ve taken your seat at Pastaria, it doesn’t really matter whether you’re in Clayton or Benton Park or BFE. You’re in Pastaria, and you’re about to eat some really fantastic Italian.

Pastaria doesn’t take reservations, so if there’s room at the bar, be prepared to hang out there. The hubs and I were running on Ireland time, so we actually didn’t get to the restaurant until close to 9pm and didn’t have much of a wait. By the way, Pastaria also has community style dining, so the likelihood of you getting a cozy table to yourself is slim.

For drinks, I had the Left Hand Milk Stout. He had a Charleville Hoptimistic IPA and a Schlafly Octoberfest.

A full array of local brews on tap

For appetizers, we ordered the crispy risotto balls and shaved kale.

For the main course, I had the Strozzapreti (pasta bolognese). He had the Garganelli (braised beef, olives, bread crumbs and gremolata).

And for dessert, I had the Pumpkin Bacon Gelato (heck yeah). He had his usual Glenfiddich 12, neat.

We loved the casual, but cool vibe of the place. Felt very warm, well-lit and was buzzing with conversation. And of course, as expected, the food was superb. We will be back again for sure, especially since Pastaria is probably the most affordable of Craft’s restaurants… which means, we could probably go there for dinner every night… right?

On NOB, my parents took me and the hubs out for thai food at Sen Thai, located in downtown St. Louis off of Locust. Sen Thai is a restaurant I’m pretty familiar with. It’s our go-to for thai cravings at work, and although I haven’t thoroughly exhausted my thai food options in St. Louis, I think they have the best pad thai on this side of the river. (Go to the other side of the river into Illinois, and Sala Thai is my number one.)

Sen Thai turned out to be the perfect place for a quiet, relaxing dinner. I didn’t want anything too crazy, since it was a Sunday night and the work week was looming right around the corner. We dined on spring rolls and chicken satay for appetizers before it was time for my pad thai.

Digging into my spring rolls

Nom nom pad thai

After our server cleared our dishes, she asked if we wanted dessert. It was then that my mom revealed it was my birthday and asked if they had any sort of cake on the dessert menu. They didn’t have cake, but they did have black sticky rice pudding, which I’d never tried before. To my surprise, our server came out with both the pudding and a cake. (And no staff members accompanied that pudding and cake to sing me happy birthday whilst clapping, thank god.)

Gives a whole new meaning to “cake made from scratch”

It was sweet of them to “make a cake” for me, and I was surprised at how much I liked the sticky rice pudding. I’ll definitely order it again the next time we go out for Thai.

And so I’m a year older and possibly X amount of pounds heavier. But that’s okay. There’s always the YMCA.

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Pinterest Hits, Volume 1: Summer Sangria & Strawberry Bruschetta

Are you one of those chicks who thinks Pinterest has changed your life? (And by changed your life, I mean sucked the living daylights out of every waking moment of your time?) You are not alone. While I’ve cut back on my Pinterest addiction by a few notches since joining, I still have a tendency to get lost in the world of “550 ways to paint a pumpkin” or photos of rosemary mint scented candles with the caption: rosemary mint scented candles.

No matter how addicting or pointless some people think it is, its made me a better cook or whatever. And I really have found some recipes, cleaning short-cuts, cool craft ideas and fab fashion trends while perusing the little corner of the Internets known as Pinterest. And so begins the first of what I hope will be a recurring theme — Pinterest Hits. Stuff I’ve tried and liked enough to do, make, buy or wear again.

Summer Sangria

First up, the summer sangria I made during our vacation at the Lake of the Ozarks this summer. It’s cool because while you spend all that time chopping fruit, you think to yourself, this is going to be really healthy. But it’s not. It’s just very delicious. And when you’re on vacation, that’s all that really matters. So find the recipe here, and cheers! (By the way, I didn’t add the serrano pepper because I was too chicken, but I swear it was just as tasty sans serrano pepper. Fact that I drank the entire pitcher by myself is justification enough.)

Strawberry Bruschetta

The next hit is a Strawberry Bruschetta recipe I found on Pinterest a while back. I decided to make it for a coworker’s birthday because 1) it seemed relatively easy to make, 2) it’s a cold appetizer, which prevented me from having to keep and serve the dish warm and 3) it seemed healthier than a batch of cupcakes or brownies. I documented the prep process because I had a feeling it was going to turn out pretty good.

Ingredients include: strawberries (shaped into a heart if you’re cool), basil, french baguette, goat cheese, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, freshly cracked pepper and sugar.

And good it was! The goat cheese, pepper and basil gave the sweet strawberries a tangy twist. A delectable combo. The dish got rave reviews at work, and I’m hoping they’ll give me a raise.

For step-by-step instructions, check out the recipe here.

If you decide to give either of these recipes a try, be sure to come back and let me know how yours turned out.

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Sunday Night Stuffed

My tummy is fat and happy right now, and it has been for pretty much the whole weekend.

On Saturday, we had Mikey’s dad and stepmom over for his dad’s belated birthday lunch. Dedicated Smokemaster Hubs (Mikey) woke up at 6am to start smoking a brisket. My work in the kitchen and on the grill began around 9am with three recipes — good old, tried and true hashbrown casserole, a new recipe for Grilled Peach Salad with Buffalo Mozzarella and Arugula and an easy peasy Betty Crocker box recipe for Cherry Chip cupcakes with cherry frosting.

{Brisket inside}

The Grilled Peach Salad was so good that the recipe and photos would be a shame not to share. See the photo below, and get the recipe from Farm House Table here. I found it on Pinterest months ago and finally got the chance to try it out. It’s a perfect end-of-summer salad that tastes as good as it looks. And anyone who is not a fan of arugula because of its bitter taste will think again. Pairing it with the sweet peaches gives it a nice balance. And by the way, we should grill peaches (and other fruits, for that matter) more often.

Love those grill marks on the peaches. Gives them character.

After grocery shopping on Sunday, we rewarded ourselves with a trip to Fozzie’s Sandwich Emporium, where I ordered the Cheesesteak sandwich and a milkshake for the first time. I chose the Salty Kisses shake, and mm mm mm! It is good. It contains chocolate chip morsels and actual chunks of pretzel in a creamy caramel swirl. The best part is that I didn’t polish the shake off entirely, so I’ve got a midnight snack waiting in the wings.

I’m head over heels for salty-sweet combinations like this.

And then, this evening we went out with my BFF and her boyfriend to celebrate her belated birthday with dinner at Lola downtown. It was the last day of Downtown St. Louis Restaurant Week, which means three course menus at multiple restaurants for $25. A real steal, considering I had crab cakes, chicken and waffles and bread pudding for a mere 25 bones. The chicken and waffles were in-credible, and of course, the company of our good friends was a pleasure too.


So tonight, I’ll be going to bed well-fed. And tomorrow it’s back to Project Slim at the gym. Hope your weekend was filled with good eats too!

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I Found My Favorite Sandwich Shop

The sandwich. If you ask me, sandwiches are nothing to rave about. It’s usually just meat and bread. Or cheese and bread. Or peanut butter and bread. No matter what the combination, they typically translate into one thing — borrrrring. Subway, Jimmy John’s, Quizno’s. I’m not opposed to eating their sandwiches, but the bottom line is a sandwich is a sandwich is a sandwich…

UNLESS you’re eating a Fozzie’s sandwich.

I recently discovered Fozzie’s Sandwich Emporium on a super hot day in July. Mikey and I had just spent a couple hours at the Maplewood pool and needed some nourishment after  swimming (but mostly baking) in the hot sun. Mikey had just been to Fozzie’s a couple days earlier with some coworkers and gave it two thumbs up. I, on the other hand, hadn’t been to Fozzie’s before, but I’d heard nothing but good reviews — including the fact that Fozzie’s very own Mark Lucas was ranked among the top 20 sandwich chefs to know by Food & Wine Magazine. A great recognition for Fozzie’s and for St. Louis.

But little did I know that Fozzie’s would change the way I feel about sandwiches. These sandwiches are anything but boring. They have flavor. They have creativity. And above all, they have that big thing they call deliciousness.

And sandwiches aren’t the only thing Fozzie’s has on the menu. They have hot dogs and burgers and milkshakes and gyros and homemade parmesan chips that I could eat every day till the day I die. Mmm, they’re so good.

Their major menu

Homemade parmesan chips. Heaven!

Some other cool features of Fozzie’s: 1) They deliver! Which in my book, really puts the icing on the already awesome cake. We have already placed an order for delivery since my first in-person visit. The delivery version of their sandwiches? Also delicious. 2) They have a garden right behind their building, where they grow ingredients that are often used in their recipes. Homegrown is always good.

Enough of my raving. I’ll let the food photos speak for themselves. But the thing to remember is that if you’re in the St. Louis area, Fozzie’s Sandwich Emporium is seriously the real deal.

Mikey had the Italian Beef.

I had the Hair of the Dog hot dog. Heck yeah.

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Raspberry Beer Cocktail

Memorial Day in the STL was a hot one. (And a mere two days later, we’re now dipping back into the low 60s. Go figure.) But for me, a hot summer holiday always puts me in the mood for a tasty drink. And I can always count on Pinterest to give me some good inspiration. It was there that I found this recipe for a Raspberry Beer Cocktail from A Cup of Mai.

Raspberries and beer, you ask? The answer is yes, they go together. If you live in the St. Louis area, try Schlafly’s Raspberry Hefeweizen. It’s all the proof you need. And if Schlafly isn’t sold in your area of the world, then try this recipe.

Raspberry Beer Cocktail



  • In a large container stir together the raspberries, beer, lemonade and vodka.
  • Garnish with raspberries.
  • To make ahead, stir together lemonade concentrate and vodka in a large container. Stir in raspberries and beer just before serving. Garnish, if desired.

And there you have it. Easy, peasy recipeezy. For sheezy. Sorry, I had to.

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Half Crappy Saturday

Yesterday was a half awesome/half crappy Saturday. It was one of the first Saturdays in a while that Mikey and I had completely open. Nothing to do, no place to be. So we decided to spend the day in the yard, smoking some deliciousness in Mikey’s somewhat new smoker and planting flowers in all my container pots.

We woke up early and made our way into the city to the Tower Grove Farmer’s Market. There, we picked up some ribs, veggies, cheese and a new bone for The Bear, then made our way back home. After bringing our new purchases into the house, I left for the nursery to pick up some “necessities”, and it wasn’t until I was on my way back home that I got a phone call from Mikey.

The awful news was that Mikey’s back windshield had been smashed. Awesome.

One of our neighbors has a lawn care company come out to mow and edge her grass, and it was actually one of their workers that spotted the completely spider-webbed windshield. We don’t know whether it was a rock that shattered the glass. Maybe kicked up when the guy was mowing the lawn? But at the same time, it was too massive of a shattering for it to be a rock from a lawn mower.

Nothing was stolen from the car, but we filed a police report in the event that it was foul play. But there’s really no way of pinpointing when it happened or who should be held responsible. The end result is that we’re shelling out close to $600 to fix the mess. Awesome.

Since Mikey had already started smoking ribs and a brisket he bought from Baumann’s Meat Market the evening before, there was nothing better to do than carry on with our yard day plans. I spent the rest of the day planting flowers, while Mikey tended to smoking the meats. And The Bear had a grand old time going to town on his new bone from the farmer’s market and splashing in his $10 plastic swimming pool. And, I got a bit of tan from soaking up all that St. Louis sun.

He also pretended to be my gardening apprentice. Which basically means he looked cute stuffing his nose in every bit of dirt he could find.

We ended the day on a good note with some mouthwatering meaty eats – and a beet, asparagus and goat cheese salad, prepared with the market items I brought home that day.

Ready to eat.

Time to pull the ribs off.

Let’s feast!

Doesn’t matter how you slice it, the brisket was delicious.

Mmmmmm ribs!

Market veggies

Asparagus, beet and goat cheese salad, which we will be making again.

Moral of the story? When life gives you lemons, smoke a brisket. The end.

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Ode to the Grill

I forgot how awesome it is to fire up the grill and cook up something delicious in a matter of minutes… until I made dinner tonight.

The weather was h-o-t in St. Louis today. I think the high topped out at 90 degrees. How’s that for an early spring? So with the record-breaking high today, I think it’s safe to say that grilling season has arrived.

Now normally I’d be jumping at the chance to get out into the backyard and work some magic on the Weber. But the persistent pollen, ragweed, oak, maple and whatever else on God’s green earth that puts the “geez” in allergies, has kept me wanting to stay indoors with the windows shut tight.

It was the same case tonight when I got home from work. But then, I looked at our handy-dandy recipe list (yes, we plan out our weeknight dinners a month in advance), and lo and behold Grilled Salmon with Corn Salad was on the menu. And so, I ventured out to the backyard while Mikey took The Bear to the dog park, and whipped up this summery recipe.

 Recipe courtesy of Whole Foods Market


Sweet Corn and Avocado Salad

  • 4 ears fresh corn, kernels removed from cob
  • 1 cup halved grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 small ripe avocado, diced
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar


  • 4 (4- to 6-ounce) salmon fillets
  • Canola cooking spray
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper


  1. For the salad, put corn, tomatoes, avocado, onion, cilantro, oil, vinegars, salt and pepper into a large bowl and toss gently to combine. Set aside.
  2. For the salmon, preheat grill. Spray fillets all over with cooking spray, then season with salt and pepper. Place salmon, skin-side up, on grill. After about 2 minutes, turn salmon a quarter turn and cook 2 minutes longer. Flip salmon and grill until cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes more.

Surprisingly, my allergies didn’t bother me as much as I expected. I guess that’s the beauty of fish cooking so quickly on the grill. And it’s early enough in the season to where I don’t get eaten alive by mosquitos. Always a plus.

Judging by how good dinner was, I’m sure there will be a lot more grilling in the near future. Next time it’ll be something meat-tastic like hamburgers, brats, hot dogs or bacon-wrapped beef tenderloin with a baked potato on the side. Sorry folks, no vegetarians in this house.

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